State grant will pave way for major upgrades to Rex Theater

A state grant will help local owners of the historic Rex Theater complete needed repairs to the facility, seen in this photo from the 1940s. (Submitted photo)

VALE – A $90,000 grant from the state will help fund an ambitious renovation project for the historic Rex Theater.

The grant from the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department paves the way for the owners – husband and wife team of Mike McLaughlin and Sandijean Fuson – to make a host of upgrades.

“I was elated with the news. Many people within our region tell us that they appreciate the Rex Theater still entertaining after all these years,” said Fuson in a press release. 

Planned improvements to the building include a new heating and air conditioning system, new furnace and repairs to the 107-year-old building.

An upgrade to the marquee is also planned.

The total cost of the project is estimated at $111,991. According to the grant application, Fuson and McLaughlin will furnish $23,000 match for the grant.

The biggest cost, according to the grant application, will be $22,992 to remove the building’s old coal furnace.

McLaughlin and Fuson bought the theater, at 240 A Street, in 1989.

The duo also own and are trying to restore the historic Drexel Hotel.

The Rex Theater opened in 1914 with 400 seats and a balcony. Since then it was owned by a series of families until Fuson and McLaughlin bought it.

The theater showed first-run movies until 2008 when digital projectors became standard. The cost of converting to digital proved to be too costly.

The theater continued to function as a place for community events but it is open only part of the year.

“Mike and I have always believed in the value of Vale’s historic downtown for tourism,” said Fuson.

McLaughlin said he is “excited we can continue to refurbish the theater.”

McLaughlin said there is no firm timetable regarding when work will kick off.

“I don’t know if we will jump on it right away. We need to procure a contractor,” said McLaughlin.

McLaughlin is also the mayor of Vale.

 News tip? Contact reporter Pat Caldwell at [email protected] or at 541-235-1003.


Reader support allows the Enterprise to provide in-depth, accurate reporting that otherwise would not get done. Keeping the community well informed is essential. SUBSCRIBE – $5 a month, automatically. DONATE – to provide additional support.